CHICKEN JOHN RINALDI: what if there were no consequences?

Well, you would end up with some good stories. Of that I am certain. You’d probably have much better stories than the ones you’re telling now.

I mean, you’re dragging your body through time… through this world. You are faced with Control* constantly. Physics. Gravity. Culture. Rules. You’re constantly faced with things telling you “No.” You have capacities: mental, physical, musical, computational… all that shit. Do we use our capacities to fight Control? Uh uh. Most of us get a reasonable haircut and spend all of our time also telling ourselves “No.” We use our minds and our bodies to build even bigger walls than the ones we already have around us. Even worse, we try to keep each other penned in mediocrity. All in the name of avoiding conflict. Mediocrity needs no help, it’s doing fine. Quit helping it.

The first order of business is to stop avoiding conflict. You make probably 90% of your decisions in the service of conflict avoidance. How much conflict do you actually avoid by doing this? None. You’ve still got conflict everywhere. But culturally we are trained to be so precious, we go to amazing lengths to prevent or navigate around conflict. Having no fear of conflict is the very core of confidence. And although it takes a little work, you can realize that confidence calibrates to failure as much as to success. It’s still confidence. It’s just coming from a completely different place. But it may take a minute to get used to that idea.

The second order of business is to cultivate your criminal mind. And how, you may ask, do you do that? Well. That’s easy. Having a criminal mind is an ancillary benefit to confronting conflict. If you embrace conflict, there are many restrictions that are lifted from you. You are more fluid: you can say what you want and do what you want. But having a criminal mind and actually being a criminal are two different things.** Having a criminal mind isn’t cheating, but it is like having all the answers to the test. Reject the expectations you’re given: play with the rules like a toy. It’s got a bad reputation, this criminal mind thing. But it’s just a way of problem solving. Critical thinking kinda. You eliminate variables and crunch the numbers and calculate the odds quick: lightning quick. Done. The combination of a criminal mind and excellent phone skills leaves the key under the mat of every door. Barnum knew it.

But to embrace conflict, and cultivate your criminal mind, you can’t fear failure. Instead you must seek it out, as if beckoned by a beacon. When failure is thrust upon you, embrace it and take away its power… in fact, flip its power around to your benefit. By twisting its will and defying it, you make it your slave and yourself the master.

* The calculated Un, that appreciates none and prevents and contains and moderates and disdains. To be contrasted with Chaos: The ineffable Is, that appreciates all and allows and accepts and laughs and courts.

** You gonna call P.T. Barnam a criminal just because every word out of his mouth was a lie? I didn’t think so. He lied. Or at least manipulated the truth. Even that’s generous. He squeezed the truth into a dress 4 sizes too small, put lipstick on it and pushed it out to the middle of the dance floor in poor lighting and paid someone to throw flowers at it while fireworks went off. You never really knew what you were getting. But he wasn’t a crook.


This is an excerpt from Chicken John Rinaldi‘s The Book of the Is: Fail… to Win! Essays in engineered disperfection (page 6 in its entirety, actually). The book is hands down Litseen’s Book of the Year. We’re not even making a list. Just get this book.

  • Read more excerpts here.
  • Watch readings from the release party here.
  • Watch Chicken read the Epilogue here.
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